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Category: Higher Education

The Financialization of the American Elite

On October 1, 2018, the newly christened Klarman Hall opened to much acclaim on the campus of Harvard Business School. The stunning $120 million building houses a conference center as well as a gleaming auditorium built around a 32-million-pixel, 1,250-square-foot video wall and a state-of-the-art, modular design that seats up to a thousand attendees. To mark the opening, the school held a daylong series of speeches and lectures, headlined by the building’s namesake and one of the school’s wealthiest living gradu­ates, billion­aire investor Seth Klarman…

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Rotten STEM: How Technology Corrupts Education

The U.S. education system spent more than $26 billion on tech­nology in 2018. That’s larger than the entire Israeli military budget. By one estimate, annual global spending on technology in schools will soon total $252 billion. But the technology pushed into schools today is a threat to child development and an unredeemable waste…

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The Illiberal Arts

For thousands of years, the liberal arts were not liberal, and that is why they are increasingly unwelcome in our time. An honest study of the past is unsettling in a liberal age, because a person who learns to venerate earlier cultural traditions, from Homer to the baroque, may come to venerate the values to…

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America’s STEM Crisis Threatens Our National Security

On October 4, 1957, a steel sphere the size of a beach ball and bristling with four radio antennae circled the Earth in eight minutes. Dubbed “Satellite-1,” or “PS-1” (Prosteyshiy Sputnik-1) by its Soviet fabricators, it was the first artificial Earth satellite. The Soviets had launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit, where it…

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The Decline of American Science and Engineering

Imagine sitting in front of your television in 1969, watching the Apollo lunar landing, and noting the marvels of modern engineering. The person sitting next to you responds, “Oh yes, but this is a passing fad; soon we will return to premodern engineering. Groping in the dark requires so much less intellect…

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Confucianism and Meritocracy: Light from the East

Ex oriente lux. With the spring academic term finished, I am in Japan and China, ostensibly to give papers at several Japanese and Chinese universities, but really to learn more about meritocracy debates in contemporary Asia. There has been a heated debate going on there among political theorists about the forms of governance most consistent with ancient Confucian political thought. The debate tracks the theoretical shadowboxing Confucian scholars have been doing for the last two…

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Fascists and Revolutionaries

The first time I remember really fearing for my generation—not the abstract uneasiness aroused by depressing statistics but a gut-level dread, something dark and unnameable lurking just beyond articulation—came in the fall of 2012. Millennials…

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There Is No Case for the Humanities

The humanities are not just dying. By some measures, they are almost dead. In Scotland, the ancient Chairs in Humanity (which is to say, Latin) have almost disappeared in the last few decades: abolished, left vacant, or merged into chairs of classics. So too in the same period, the University of Oxford revised its famed…

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How Not to Defend the Humanities

In Renaissance Italy, the birthplace of the humanities, there were people who believed in literature. Not just people who read literature, wrote literature, studied literature, professed literature, packaged and sold literature, as today, but people who really believed in it. They believed that certain old books—containing poetry, history, moral philosophy, drama, oratory—could reshape the souls…

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The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective

The Evangelical Christians I have met in the United States often talk about how reading the Bible changed their lives. They talk about being born again. I am not an Evangelical Christian. I am a Chinese atheist who came to the West to study at the world’s best universities and, later, to work at one…

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